It will take a long time to rebuild Hong Kong people’s trust in the police, who used tear gas and pepper spray on the protesters on Sunday, Executive Council member Bernard Chan told EJ Insight in an interview.
“Hong Kong people have a good impression on police for many years… The overall impression has not changed after the incident last night, but it will take a long time to mend the trust between police and the public after the clashes,” he said.
Chan noted that the protesters and the police have divergent views on the issue of protest.
“Protesters think that they are peaceful, but police think the protesters are doing something illegal by blocking the streets,” he said.
“Police have their own guidelines. I believe most police officers are disciplined and do not want to run counter to the people. When there are so many people in a mass protest, it is easy for the incident to get worse and out of control,” Chan said, but declined to comment on whether he thinks last night’s tear gas attack was an unwise move.
What the police should consider is whether deploying pepper spray and tear gas would help to restore public order or would just provoke more people to join the protests, he said.
Chan also said Beijing may perceive the ongoing civil disobedience movement as a threat to national security.
“I am now more worried about how Beijing sees this incident… You can see that Beijing has repeatedly said that this is about national security. It absolutely has a reason to believe that some people behind are instigating the public,” Chan said.
“I personally believe that most people do not come out because some foreign powers provoke them. They do it out of their own thinking. But when you see the scenes on television, it’s difficult to blame some people who have a different opinion,” he said.
“Fighting [for democracy] in this way is more of a hindrance. We are not building the mutual trust [between Hong Kong and the central government]. The conflict and conspiracy theory will become more serious.
“We have to make Beijing have trust in us. And if we do this by protest, I’m afraid that there will be a reverse effect,” Chan said.
When asked about whether Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying should step down to resolve the standoff, Chan said political reform is not only for Hong Kong to decide, but also involves the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
Chan also said whether the government’s political reform proposal would pass in the Legislative Council would depend on the developments in the next few days.
He said moving a step towards universal suffrage is better than making no progress at all.
“Beijing will only let us progress towards full democracy step by step as it wants to be sure that nothing unexpected would happen,” Chan said.
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